A legal battles over solitary confinement continue, lawyers for Joey Toutsaint will go to court Friday to seek a date for a judge to rule on whether Toutsaint can be moved from prison to a psychiatric centre in Saskatchewan.(Shutterstock/cunaplus)

Lawyers continue to battle to seek a better life for imprisoned First Nations man

Joey Toutsaint is 32 now.

He’s from the Black Lake Denssuline First Nation in Northern Saskatchewan, but he’s a million miles from his youth right now.

Toutsaint is currently in an observation cell at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert, doing hard time for robbery, threats and other offences, serving an indeterminate sentence after being declared a dangerous offender in 2014.

Nearly five-and-a-half of his 32 years–2,000 days–have been spent in solitary confinement in nine different Canadian prisons.

A British Columbia judge ruled in January 2018 that indefinite segregation, or solitary confinement, violates the Charter rights of prisoners. The ruling is currently being appealed by the federal government. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

But if there’s worse punishment than solitary confinement, it’s an observation cell.

Everything anyone ever hated about solitary, observation’s got.

Only in observation the lights never go off as you try to fall asleep on a concrete slab.

Toutsaint found himself thrown into the whirlwind that is the Canadian prison system shortly after his mother and grandfather died when he was 15 and his mind went a little haywire.

Indefinite solitary confinement was supposed to be relic of the past in Canada, but right now it’s still on the books as lawyers debate, judges listen, and the government tries to move a bill through Parliament.

Prisoners’ Legal Services, a B.C. based group, has filed an injunction with the Federal Court to have Joey Toutsaint transferred from the Saskatchewan Penitentiary to the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon. (CBC)

One wonders where Toutsaint’s thoughts take him these days.

Maybe back to his youth up north before his mother and grandfather died?

What about all those times he was sexually assaulted and physically abused as people paid to protect him looked the other way?

A picture from the investigator’s report showing debris in the corridors after the riot at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert in 2016. Joey Toutsaint is currently in an observation cell at the prison. (Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator)

Whatever he’s thinking, people who care about him believe it can’t be good.

He has a history of mental illness and he is self-harming.

“My body is covered in scars,” Toutsaint has said in an affidavit.

“I’ve come close to killing myself more than once. Because of that, I have spent a lot of time on suicide watch in observation cells.”

And there Toutsaint remains.

Prisoners’ Legal Services lawyer Deborah Charles hopes to move Joey Toutsaint’s case ahead on Friday.

On Friday, lawyers at Prisoners’ Legal Services in British Columbia will go to court to get a date to go to another court so an a judge can rule on an injunction they have filed to transfer Toutsaint from the Saskatchewan Penitentiary to the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon.

At this point, all they can do is cross their fingers that a future court date can be found.

I spoke by phone with Deborah Charles, the Prisoners’ Legal Services lawyer who filed the injunction.

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